Othello review at Ambassadors Theatre, London – ‘visually arresting’
Kicking off with a swaggering, seamlessly choreographed movement sequence packed with evocative details and expressive character interactions, Simon Pittman’s Othello is infused with a striking physical aesthetic.
The production, a collaboration between National Youth Theatre and Frantic Assembly, draws heavily on the 2001 adaptation by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, relocating the action to a contemporary urban estate. In this context, the show pointedly explores the reckless, restless energy of marginalised young people, and the ease with which such undirected anger can be manipulated.
The large ensemble tackle both the Shakespearean dialogue and the challenging physicality with great energy and precision. Mohammed Mansaray is a warm and gentle Othello, uncomfortable with the violent world he is immersed in. Beside him, Jamie Rose’s impressive Iago is flippant and outwardly gregarious, slipping in filthy looks and self-satisfied sneers when no one is looking.
Only his wife Emelia – a splendidly bolshy Megan Burke – gets to see the depths of his nasty, nihilistic distain. She delivers her final speech in a passionate rush, equal parts horrified realisation and vengeful accusation.
Laura Hopkins’ set design is effective, evoking a dingy cellar bar with little more than a pool table and three poster-covered pillars. The whole construction vibrates and sways, the ceiling closing in and columns tilting to sharp angles during scenes of drunkenness or wrenching emotion.
The score, from Becky Smith, is full of swelling strings and tense melodies, complimenting the production’s stylish, contemporary feel while retaining the sense of timeless tragedy.